The Ministry of Health announced on Sunday evening that more than 57 people had died of COVID-19 since last night. That brings the total to 1,055 since the beginning of January – the highest monthly number since the pandemic in Israel last year.
With the additional deaths, the death toll since the outbreak began reached 4,419.
The ministry said 2,401 news virus cases were identified on Saturday, eight percent of the only 30,888 tests conducted – the test numbers tend to drop over the weekend. Another 2,401 were confirmed between midnight and 10:15 p.m. Sunday.
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The total number of cases since the pandemic began reached 597,403, including 69,516 active cases – a decrease of more than 6,000 active cases since Saturday.
The grim statistics came when the country was ready to take drastic measures to block virus mutations reaching the country from abroad. The government decided to suspend all commercial flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international airport.
An Israeli man who returned from Dubai after contracting COVID-19 infected no fewer than 180 people on Sunday, according to a Channel 12 report
A mutant strain of the virus, first discovered in the UK, has been blamed for a recent spike in the number of infections that has since been suppressed in part due to a national lockdown and mass racing vaccination.
Another variety from South Africa and Brazil has also found its way into the country, and a third variety that has ravaged California has now been found in Israel, the Department of Health said.
A man returning from Los Angeles apparently infected four other people in Israel, the ministry said, adding that it was looking into the matter.
Sharon Alroy Prize, director of public health at Department of Health, told Channel 13 News, « We’re examining how dangerous it is. »
The Department of Health reported Sunday that five more cases of the South African variant of coronavirus were found in travelers from South Africa and Dubai. The ministry said a total of 27 cases of the strain were discovered in Israel.
So far, 1,081,099 Israelis have received both doses of vaccine with two shots, and 2,570,622 have only received the first dose. Just over 92,000 shots were taken on Saturday, the slowest day of the week, while more than 150,000 vaccinations were given on Sunday.
Last week, record vaccination numbers topped 220,000 a day. The government hopes to have everyone over the age of 16 vaccinated by the end of March.
It’s still not entirely clear how well the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine Israel is using against the new strains, although experts say that they are likely to be effective.
According to two preliminary studies published last Wednesday, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine appears to be effective against the new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus, first detected in the UK and since then in dozens of countries was found. The strain, known as B.1.1.7, has raised the alarm among experts due to its increased ability to spread and recharge virus outbreaks.
Sunday’s decision to close Ben Gurion came after months of immigration policy criticized by the government for being too lax and blamed for many imported COVID-19 cases.
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